Re: [OPE-L] Incoherence of the TSSI - consensus?

From: Gary Mongiovi (MONGIOVG@STJOHNS.EDU)
Date: Tue Oct 23 2007 - 14:36:43 EDT

In response to Anders:
I fully agree that the relationship between Smith, Ricardo & Marx is complex and subtle. One objection to the TSSI, however, is that at least until recently, its adherents denied that Marx took anything from Ricardo, a position I think is, on its face, entirely untenable. The absolute TSSI insistence that Marx was not in any important respects building upon Ricardian foundations severely undermines the TSS framework as an interpretation of Marx, because the claim is directly contradicted by Marx's own words. 
I am not sure what you mean by models that are useful for discussing or proving exploitation. If we want to discuss explointation, we must first define it, and then we can look at reality to see if there is evidence of it. The question relating to exploitation that often arises in the sort of discussion we are having now is whether one needs to conduct one's analysis in terms of labor values in order to derive insight into exploitation. My own feeling is that the concept of exploitation is not particularly useful to a scientific understanding of how capitalism works: it's a value-loaded label that resonates with people who already have a pretty good sense of the brutality of capitalism. I do not mean to say that capitalism isn't exploitative. It surely is. But that's a value judgment. 
Nor do I mean  to suggest that Marx's discussion of exploitation contains nothing of scientific value. On the contrary, his insight that the transition from feuadalism to capitalism was accompanied by the separation of workers from the means of production is central to any explanation of capitalist class relations--and is a significant advance over anything in Smith or Ricardo. (Smith only hints at something like this in his discussion of the conflict between masters and workers over wages.) But the scientific content of this insight can be, and probably ought to be, articulated without recourse to the word exploitation.
We define exploitation in purely technical terms--the ratio of labor time embodied in the net social product to the labor time embodied in wage goods--but that conveys no sense of the coercive nature of wage labor which is surely one hallmark of an exploitative economic system. And the coercive nature of capitalist production relations can be adequately described without measuring ones accounts in units of labor time. 
What matter, it seems to me, are the power imbalances stemming from workers' alienation from the means of production. We can talk about these clearly enough without adopting Marx's labor value analysis.
But I seem to have got off track from Anders's point. The question I would pose to him is why does he think that an equilibrium framework cannot be an appropriate framework for understanding exploitation? Morishima, to take one straightforward example, adopts Marx's definitions of value, surplus value etc, and calculates a rate of exploitation in a way that appears to me to match what Marx had in mind. He does this in the context of a static model. What makes a dynamic framework, or a non-equilibrium framework, more appropriate to demonstrating the existence of "exploitation" (defined a la' Marx, via Morishima) than a long-period equilibrium framework? Marx's starting point after all was a static model of simple reproduction. Here I take for granted that my reading of Marx is more accurate than the TSSI. The point, though, is that if one wants to talk about exploitation, one can do so quite easily without abandoning the long-period framework; for many writers on exploitation have accept that framework and have had no difficulties saying what they want to say. An approach like the TSSI would seem LESS useful for talking about exploitation, because the money values which comprise constant & variable capital in TSS models don't correspond to Marx's labor values. (Again, I am assuming that the TSSI misreads Marx.) 

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